First Human placed in “suspended animation” by Doctors

The technique was part of a trial being conducted by a team of Medics at a U.S hospital to treat patients with fatal injuries

Faisal Khan
Dec 2, 2019 · 3 min read

This new innovation in Medical Science has shown promise that it can save lives. A team of doctors at the University of Maryland School of Medicine has successfully trialed putting patients in “suspended animation” to treat their acute traumatic injuries resulting from a gunshot or stab wound, etc.

Officially referred to as emergency preservation and resuscitation (EPR), the trial was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Most of the new medical trials usually require patient consent, however, in this case, the FDA granted an exemption to the consent, due to the fatal nature of the participants’ injuries and a lack of an alternative treatment. The local community was made aware of the trial & newspaper ads were also published.

In such traumatic cases, the chances of survival are thin with a very small window of time — with only minutes to operate and a 5 percent chance of survival, the EPR technique could be the difference between life and death. The process involves cooling off the patient’s body to 10–15 °C (50 to 59 Fahrenheit) from the normal body temperature of 37 °C.

This is also accompanied by replacing all the blood with an ice-cold saline solution. Drastically lowering the temperature of the body almost brings down the brain activity to zero, thus buying precious time for the doctors to perform life-saving surgery. Once the cooling off is complete, the patient is moved to the Operation theatre to be treated for his fatal injuries.

~ Samuel Tisherman, Lead Researcher

Under normal circumstances, even if the trauma patient survives, a lack of oxygen can cause severe or irreversible damage to the brain. Cooling off the body slows down the cell reactions drastically, requiring much less oxygen. This cooling process gives the surgeons precious two hours to operate on the patient after which the body can be resuscitated by warming back up to the normal body temperature.

Lead Researcher, Samuel Tisherman, plans to treat 10 people with EPR before comparing the results with 10 people who would go through the conventional procedure, considering the trial team is not available at the time of their admittance. Animal trials conducted showed that pigs could be treated for 3 hours before bringing them out of suspended animation.

There are still a few unknowns. Bringing people out of a state where they are almost clinically dead can cause complications like damaging chemical reactions within the cells. Lack of oxygen for longer periods of time can cause serious damage. Nonetheless, if the technique could be perfected to avoid these pitfalls, it can lead to saving precious lives.

The team hasn’t confirmed how many people have received the EPR so far. Tisherman detailed the team’s progress at a symposium at the New York Academy of Sciences. The detailed results are expected to be announced sometime in 2020.

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Faisal Khan

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